Connections, Chemistry & Conflict

We’re familiar, I hope, with those magical relationships where everything just clicks. You meet. You’re worlds a part from where you are and where you have been. But, suddenly, within a few moments of conversing you realize you have a bazillion things in common and suddenly, you’re finishing each others sentences. You realize that your first impression was ironic and wrong – you weren’t worlds a part – you share the same world view. Your values line up, life experiences line up, and everything just clicks. You connect. There’s chemistry. It’s wonderful. This person may be your best friend or your partner in life, now. That chemistry may have fizzled or stretched or changed – but let’s consider that first amazement.

Are you considering? It’s like all is right with the world. You feel like you belong. You feel like someone really gets you. You feel welcomed. You feel like you have a companion. You feel loved.

Those connections, when they happen that quickly, for me are rare. It only happens once every few years. Most people fall in a spectrum of extremes. Most people fall to the other side of quick chemistry, and there is a semblance of having to work at the relationship. However, you can usually find enough common ground to have productive, fun, motivating conversations. Many of these people I truly admire and love them dearly. We have enough in common, perhaps we’re united by a love of food security, that it propels us to work through whatever differences we have found. And, then, we get used to those differences, achieve understanding, and move on.

But, then, there is the other extreme. The instant conflict extreme. The person, who no matter how hard you try says “Up” when you say “down.” How do you deal with those people? Those people who you’re like oil and vinegar? What’s the break point? If you’re a peer, when do you walk away? If you’re a colleague, how do you manage work? If you’re a boss, how do you deal with this subordinate? If you’re working on an intimate team, how do you work towards the good of the organization while keeping your own relationship professional? If you’re a boss, when you decide enough is enough and there is no amount of moving forward and you have to let that person go?

I’ve met three people in the last few years who identify on that degree of conflict: conflict chemistry. Maybe the relationship started out neutral, then no matter how consistent I thought I was, the relationship degenerates to the point that every time one speaks, the other thinks the opposite. I”m trying to consider how I might do this. But, first I can only consider when I am shut down. This happened today, a few times in a meeting. It didn’t matter what I suggested, the negative aspect of said suggestion was brought up. That behavior kills conversations and fails to allow dialogue to ensue. So, the point might be to get to the heart of an issue, instead it stagnant conversation. The other day, when this happened, I persisted until the other gave up. But, I don’t have always have the patience to persist.

This has happened in earlier working groups with another of the three I’m vaguely mentioning. This person exhibited similar behavior, so for sometime I just thought it was me. But, then I got feedback from others that it indeed was not me – rather the other. This person was consistent in her behavior. She shut down other people and failed to allow people to talk and air their concerns  It was only her concerns that were aired. It fostered such a toxic environment that I thought it was going to break the organization with which we belonged. My own persistence and sharing of stories with friends validated I was not alone and that behavior was not acceptable. Because none of us enjoyed conflict, we quietly stayed the course and the person eventually left. Dialogue progresses more positively without this individual. I’ve heard rumors that her behavior has manifested itself in a new organization. That organization is going strong, so I wonder how they’ve managed to manage her behavior.

The most recent conflict in chemistry occurs with a peer at work. She started as my subordinate, but while I was on vacation she was removed from my purview by someone who didn’t understand or care for the methodology. While she was under my purview I was able to coach and share thoughts – we got a long fine. When I returned from vacation the oil and vinegar attitude began.

I have not questioned it. Maybe that’s the lesson. Maybe I should call out the hostility. I should practice my NVC tips, write it out, and hold it sacred for the next outburst. Call out the white elephant and challenge it.

End free write.